From lush green virgin forests to bald mountains, flooding and siltation, and mudflows and landslides – these are some of the common themes emanating from the week-long consultations held in Bukidnon between the Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency – AFD) and stakeholders concerned from various segments of the public and civil society.
The discussion especially highlighted the gathering threat and consequences resulting from erratic climatic patterns – the Philippines being the 3rd most vulnerable country in the world to the dangers of climate change.
How economies and society, and in particular the agriculture sector, would adapt to the madness caused by climate change – and its utter devastation to life, property and agricultural lands as witnessed in recent years in the Philippines by Super Typhons Sendong, Pablo and Yolanda – is a major concern that our nation as well as many other countries all over the world are facing.
This was in fact also one of the major theme that emerged during the recent visit of French President, Francoise Hollande, to the Philippines. As a result of his visit in late February this year, the governments of France and Philippines inked several agreements for cooperation in key areas.
Topping this list is the Declaration of Intent of both countries to protect the environment and to sustainably develop marine resources.
The subject AFD Technical Mission was a very useful follow up to the high level agreements reached between the governments of the two countries. Matter of fact, years before France and the Philippines formalized major agreements, the provinces of Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur, together with Hineleban Foundation and the Indigenous Peoples (IP) and other local groups, had already been busy rehabilitating the pristine forests and watersheds and helping to provide livelihood programs for the IPs.
A flagship project of the 7 indigenous tribes of Bukidnon and Hineleban is for coffee which supports the entire supply chain from production to harvest and processing, and all the way to marketing at Heatlty Options stores nation wide. The IPs are able to earn a decent income from the sharing of revenues earned from the sale of coffee and improve their living conditions.
AFD technical team evaluated the approaches and methodologies being used by the provinces and decided to embrace the concept and offered financial and technical assistance to Bukidnon, and a portion of Lanao, for developing a full-scale Project.
The idea is to formulate a Project which will provide livelihood support for the IPs so as for them to earn “disposal” income in addition to having food sufficiency programs, and alongside this, help the IPs to protect and conserve rainforests in their own ancestral domains, i.e., the four major mountain ranges of Bukidnon.
The Province of Bukidnon is home of four mountain ranges – which comprise some of the last most pristine, but threatened, rainforest in the country – that are also the headwaters of six major rivers which provide water for a significant proportion of the island of Mindanao.
The French Technical Mission comprising Thierry Clement and Lola Desbourdes, were joined by a number of local consultants and resource persons and participated in the multi-stakeholder Workshop and Focus Group Discussions (FGD) which included the Governor of the Province, local government units (LGUs), non-government agencies, academe, and the seven indigenous tribes of Bukidnon.
Some key messages coming out of the Workshop included the following: harmonize various policies (e.g. Comprehensive Land Use Plans and Forest Land Use Plans) for a smoother project implementation; lessen layers of bureaucracy flow, particularly in the access of funding by stakeholder-implementers; integrate a sustainable livelihood program (with value chain analysis, principally connecting the final produce to the market); put in place capacities for all stakeholders involved; and engage IPs in the reforestation and livelihood continuum.
The FGD with 7 IP tribal communities highlighted their sentiments as being extremely poor, lacking in access to food, health and education, and highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change particularly in the mountain ranges where they live. They also lament on the fact that their cultural tribal laws, customs, and practices are not being factored into most of the development agenda.
The call for community-initiated free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) was strongly made by the IP leaders and they also stressed the need to follow the participatory cultural accountability mechanism for obtaining the FPIC in ancestral domains of the IPs. Further, the IP leadership emphasized the need for finding business partners who could help the IP farmers to better quality production and harvest technologies as well as assist them in finding direct links to the market and fair prices.
The LGUs from Lanao del Sur, Wao and Bumbaran, during FGD deliberations highlighted the need for capacity building especially at the community level and the pre-requisites for them to learn technical skills/know-how in determining appropriateness of agriculture / silviculture technologies in various zones of the forests.
The first step to the preparation of the Project was successfully completed and culminated in the AFD staff and its Technical Mission presenting the main findings to the National Government on 17th March 2015. These findings and conclusions of the technical team will be reflected in the feasibility study for the Project.
It is expected that, following the finalization of the feasibility study in April, the processing of the AFD Project will commence soon after with the aim for approval by the authorities by early 2016.
FGD with the Seven IP Tribes of Bukidnon
Discussions with the Governor of Bukidnon
FGD with LGU Amai Manabilang (formerly Bumbaran)
Consultations with Office of the Governor, Local Government Units, Non-Government organizations, Civil Society, Academe and other stakeholders from Bukidnon.